Whatever your do, make up your mind early on to face cancer with an upbeat and optimistic winning attitude.
I’m Lorna and from southern Illinois, where I grew up as the only little sister to 3 older, creative, and mischievous brothers, who worked day and night finding new and innovative ways to develop my mental toughness. Fortunately, I survived them, then college, and a few years working in the Midwest before my company sent me to San Diego on a project in the late 90’s. I immediately loved it here, so I decided to stay in SD and I have been here ever since.
When did you start CrossFit?
Once a demanding job and a rigorous travel schedule started to impact me physically, a doctor suggested that I had to find a way to “balance out the travel” through diet and exercise. I knew that I needed accountability and something that would keep me engaged long term. I had never really been a “gym person” and frequently got bored with routine classes or activities. I joined up at CrossFit Invictus about 3 years ago and said to myself that I had to find a way to make it a “habit”. Although the workouts were tough, making it a habit was easy. I had incredible coaches, made great friends and found the workouts extremely challenging for me. Although they felt like torture at times, I always had a sense of accomplishment. I was hooked and before long, I found myself missing these hours in the gym when I traveled.
In early March, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Lobular Carcinoma and Lobular Carcinoma in Situ – or in less syllables - breast cancer. I had a double mastectomy on May 20th and I’m currently undergoing reconstruction. I’ve since learned that my lymph nodes are clean and that I won’t need radiation or chemotherapy.
CrossFit role in treatment
From the beginning, I decided that cancer would get no more attention than was needed to defeat it. It will only be a small fraction of my life and time, so I had to focus my energy on my normal routines and habits, which includes my CrossFit workouts, beach time, family, friends, work, etc. CrossFit has been a great confidence builder, therapy and distraction. Every workout reminded me that I was still very healthy and strong, which is a very good starting point for facing a cancer diagnosis.
Thought on fitness after being diagnosed
My CrossFit mentality was always about the habit and making it sustainable for me long term and keeping it balanced with the rest of my lifestyle. I never fully appreciated the progress I had made until doctors started telling me what good shape I was in…” especially for my age” (grrr) and that it would serve me well in my treatment. I was really surprised at how fast I recovered from the surgery and I realized that while I am not putting up giant numbers on the boards or frequent PRs, I am a lot stronger than I think – and I PR’d when I needed it the most. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I feel like my mental toughness towards cancer is way stronger than my mental toughness in my workouts. If my coaches give me a workout with a lot of wall balls, I mentally implode all over the place until the last one is done or time is up. Hopefully, for all of our sanity, this will make me mentally a lot tougher in my workouts. ☺
How has being involved with CrossFit helped in my battle with cancer.
I’ve been incredibly lucky with an early diagnosis of a slow growing cancer. I have also been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received from my entire set of friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, and my CrossFit circle of friends have all been incredibly inspiring and motivational. I love that my coaches treat me like my normal self and push me to work as hard as before I was diagnosed. My workout buddies are keeping me engaged and pushing me to show up for workouts with them, which always turns out to be a highlight in the day. I’m really inspired by my close CrossFit friends, who found a way to turn my experience into something meaningful and beneficial by raising money for Everyday Warrior. By focusing on these things, it helps to keep it all in perspective.
What has the CrossFit box provided in terms of support and strength.
Great coaches and workout buddies have been the best form of support and strength.
Where do I get my motivation/strength?
My motivation and strength come from those who have already survived breast cancer and my stubborn sense of independence and doing life my way on my terms. I’ve had several close friends who have survived breast cancer or are in their treatment right now. They were true inspirations well before I was ever diagnosed. Because of these friends I requested a mammogram which detected my cancer early. In my mind, I got lucky – and I have to take advantage of that.
My advice/words of wisdom for others fighting cancer?
One of my favorite things to do is to walk the beach at sunrise or sunset, which serves as a reminder of a new day or another day in the books. In general, I think it’s important to take life’s challenges one day/sunset at a time. Use your energy on that which immediately needs your attention and don’t allow worrying about the what if’s and future to drain you.
Whatever your do, make up your mind early on to face cancer with an upbeat and optimistic winning attitude. You have now caught cancer in its tracks. Focus on staying healthy (eating, sleeping, exercising) and what you can do to prepare for the “next steps”. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to find the magical answer on the internet – and/or eating some weird herb that somebody somewhere said would treat your cancer. Focus on what you can do….not what you can’t do…
Surgeries and treatments can stretch out over time, but they are finite moments in time, whereas life offers continuous opportunities for enjoyment, distraction and fun. Choose how much attention you give to cancer vs. the things that make you happy. I keep a “happy jar” where I routinely add post its that record happy moments throughout the year…every new year’s eve, I empty it and look at how great my year has been. Oddly enough, I think 2016 may require a second jar.
While you may be flooded with people wanting to give you the secret to beating cancer, I would encourage people to politely thank those people but then research and think for yourselves. My advice is to think holistically about their treatment, find the very best doctors, stick to scientific websites (not blogs) and get plenty of healthy food, exercise, and sleep.